By Carla Olivo, Marine Spouse
While the majority of us PCS in the summer months, the fact is, military families move all twelve months of the year. And just because you’ve always been a summer mover, doesn’t mean you always will be. There may come a time when you have to move across the country or even out of the country in the middle of winter.
Let’s face it. A move is a move no matter when it happens. It’s disruptive, unsettling, and pretty stressful. But there are a few things to keep in mind if those orders come through when there is snow on the ground.
It’s Not Always a Bad Thing!
There tend to be less military families moving in the winter months so lining up housing, schools, and even scheduling your move with the moving company can often be smoother because you are not in the middle of the summer rush.
On the downside, moving around the holidays can present its own set of headaches dealing with shorter holiday office hours and trying to also observe the holiday. If you have children, it can be tricky making sure the move doesn’t overshadow the holiday.
Prepare for the Cold
If you are heading to your new duty station in a cold climate make sure you are prepared. When we moved from South Florida up to Fredericksburg, Virginia I had to buy my three and eight-year-old winter coats as neither had ever owned more than a light jacket. And make sure you purchase some Space saver bags for those bulky winter coats and blankets! You may not need the coats when you start your trip, so pack them away and pull them out when the weather warrants. These bags can save a lot of space in an already tight car.
Make sure you have an emergency kit in the car. You can buy complete kits or put one together yourself. Recommended items to keep in this kit include an ice scraper, flares, jumper cables, flashlight with extra batteries, blankets, water, gloves, boots, and a first-aid kit.
Winterize your vehicles before PCSing to Michigan. Things to check include:
- Wiper blades/fluid
- Tires and tire pressure
- Four-wheel drive
- Anti-freeze mixture
- Change the oil and adjust the viscosity.
Avoid the Germs!
Cold weather means runny noses and lots of germs! If you are driving, you will be stopping at rest stops, gas stations, and convenience stores which are great opportunities to pick up a bug along the way. If flying, a closed in cabin with recycled air is the perfect breeding ground for germs. You certainly can’t avoid all the germs, but there are some things you can do to cut down your family’s exposure.
First of all, carry hand sanitizer in your vehicles and your purse and use it liberally! Each time you stop, make sure each child washes their hands in warm soapy water in the restroom. Pack a small bag with cough drops, Tylenol, cough syrup, and any other medicines your family regularly takes. You don’t want to have to go out of your way to find cough medicine on a cross country trip.
Hit The Ground Running!
During the cold winter months, there is a tendency to want to hibernate, but the quickest way to feel at home at your new duty station is to get involved. Once you’ve arrived, get your kids into school right away so they can start making new friends. Kids usually thrive when they are in school pursuing those activities they participated in at their prior duty station. While it is not always possible to continue exactly what they were doing, it’s important to keep them involved. On that move from South Florida, my kids couldn’t swim as much as they were used to, but we did find the closest indoor pool and spent a lot of time there our first year in Virginia.
Most schools have activities over the winter months. Try to attend these events as a family or better yet volunteer to help the planning committee. Our elementary school held a Winter Wonderland event each year. Another highlight was a bingo night in February. These events are a great way to meet other families.
A cold weather PCS often means switching things up a bit. Normally, when you move you start cleaning out, purging, selling, donating, etc. But holding a yard sale in the dead of winter may not give you the results you want. Go through your things before your move and donate to a homeless shelter or your local thrift shop. Those items you chose to sell can be saved and sold on the other end of your PCS. The winter months provide plenty of time to unpack and evaluate what you want to get rid of. And an early spring yard sale can be very successful!
Your first winter move might be disconcerting, especially if you are used to moving over the summer. But with a little planning, it can be a great adventure for your family! Use the resources PCSgrades has to offer with reviews on housing, neighborhoods, and Realtors to make this PCS your best yet!
Author: Carla Olivo, PCSgrades Strategic Communications Director, previously served as the Director of Communications for Operation Hug-A-Hero and as the Media/Community Relations Officer for the Delaware Department of Transportation. She has garnered numerous TV industry awards including the Associated Press award for Spot News Reporting, News Writing, Enterprise Reporting, and Documentary Reporting. She lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, a retired USMC Lt. Colonel, and their two children. You can follow her on Twitter @olivowriter.